kingdom of jerusalem 1174 king ulmeric lies on his deathbed trying to decide who will succeed him and it’s not an easy decision he knows others want the crown and the sultan sullivan is a rising threat he has two daughters isabella is from his current wife sibila is from an old marriage but still legitimate and then there’s baldwin iv his only son who is 13 and has leprosy he leaves the crown to baldwin and thus begins one of the craziest succession crises in all of history filled with passion betrayal and a musical chairs game of annulled marriages.
after, the first crusade ended in 1099, a collection of mostly frankish kingdoms formed in palestine, serving as both a political force in the middle east and a launching point for new crusades the most powerful of these was the kingdom of jerusalem, but as of 1174 it’s ruled by a leper which is a bit of a problem since no matter how brilliant or vigorous baldwin iv is, he won’t live long and will never have children so he’s surrounded by plots for his entire decade-long reign, enter sibila, baldwin’s sister who due to baldwin’s condition is suddenly the most eligible lady in the holy land and powerful nobles in the crusader states want to secure her a marriage that will be advantageous when baldwin finally kicks it, after all they’re eventually going to need help from europe to stave off saladin, enter the archbishop of tyre who sets sibila up with a fine young man from france, but who eventually gets cold feet about living in the middle east and ditches her to go back to europe so next baldwin arranges a marriage between sibila and a guy named william longsword i mean how can you go wrong with a guy whose name is longsword am i right he’s tall blonde handsome and good at fighting so he marries sibila then promptly dies of malaria though sibila gets pregnant first giving baldwin a potential heir now she’s the most eligible widow in the holy land, and whoever marries her will at the very least get to be regent until the boy is old enough to rule in his own right, and the nobles definitely want sibila married again as solidan is becoming ever more threatening, and since philip ii of france is still a miner their usual ally is in no position to help jerusalem needs to secure an alliance with a european state who can send troops if needed.
enter gui de luzinho he’s the first cousin to henry ii of england and that might come in handy for the crusader states namely because henry sort of kinda accidentally murdered thomas becket the archbishop of canterbury, and owed the pope a penance and these nobles figure that if ghee is married to sybilla henry is more likely to discharge that iou to the pope by going on a crusade to help them, so civila and gee tie the knot have two daughters, and baldwin raises ghee to the status of regent to rule in his stead if he’s too sick to do it himself, but then gee starts hanging out with reynold of chadian who is basically an aristocratic pirate, reynold came to the holy land seeking riches and managed to find it by marriage, torturing bishops, looting allied crusader states, and robbing the peasantry, but he crosses a line when he starts antagonizing saladin, attacking merchant shipping and pilgrim caravans to mecca. Even, after baldwin had signed a treaty with saladin to give the crusader states some breathing room so when baldwin tells key to punish this murder-happy mercenary gee kind of feels like he can’t because reynolds argues that the truce is only between saladin and baldwin.
baldwin is furious so he deposes key and has sybil’s son crowned co-king of jerusalem passing over ghee entirely, he then puts a clause in his will stating that if sybil’s son baldwin v somehow mysteriously, dies the kings of england france the holy roman empire and the pope will decide who gets to rule jerusalem next.
then baldwin promptly kicks the bucket and his young heir baldwin v who also has leprosy also dies within a year. after a scramble cibola becomes queen assuring rival nobles gee will not be their king, then as soon as she’s crowned, she goes back on her promise and makes gee king causing another succession crisis but with saladin finally on the march the crusader states can’t afford to bicker, so they put aside their differences and march under gee who raises his banner and leads them to total destruction at the battle of a teen, getting himself captured while saladin goes on to cut reynolds head off and conquer jerusalem, then a year later for reasons that aren’t clear saladin decides to release ki. But, still intent on reclaiming his kingdom gee, then shows up to the city of tyre one of the remaining strongholds of the crusader states and demands that they give it to him because he’s the king of jerusalem, the noble holding the city a guy named conrad who recently arrived from europe and managed to hold the city against saladin when no one else could. essentially says, how exactly are you the king of jerusalem when saladin holds jerusalem.
ghee is a king without a kingdom but he does have an army coalescing around him, so in an act of desperation he marches south and besieges the port of akrei and there in a stroke of luck the incoming third crusade decides that’s where they want to land, aid from england, france, and germany gathers around his banner but there were two problems for gee first during the siege of akrei, sibila and her daughters died of disease. which was bad, since it was sibila and not ghee who had the claim second conrad and his supporters come up with a sneaky plan to make conrad king of jerusalem, by marrying sybilla’s half-sister isabella who now has the best claim, of course true to this story even with that plan there were more complications, a isabella was already happily married. b conrad was also married. and c isabella had previously been married to conrad’s brother which by church law made them siblings and any marriage would be incest. But, y’all conrad really wanted to be king of jerusalem okay so his supporters kidnapped isabella away from her husband get her marriage annulled on the basis that she was too young when she was married, and then forcibly marry her to the again already married conrad all made possible by a pleasantly bribable archbishop. But, and this keeps going, remember how the kings of europe were supposed to appoint baldwin’s successor. Well, geez related to richard the first of england who was the now dead henry’s son and conrad is the buddy of philip the first of france both of whom are now in akre on crusade and want their say and what of the holy roman emperor well he drowned in a river so he didn’t get a vote.
Eventually, they come to a temporary compromise gee will be king of jerusalem and conrad will inherit the kingdom after ghi’s death, but of course neither trusts the other so they both secretly open negotiations with saladin, to better support their individual claims. Because, this is about personal power now, which led to an awkward scene when envoys from geese camp and envoys from conrad’s camp accidentally run into each other while both being entertained by solidan’s men. Finally, trying to solve the problem once and for all the local barons essentially just decide to hold an election for king and while richard tries to rig it for ghee conrad wins, richard deeply annoyed make ski the king of cyprus as a consolation prize.
Before, conrad can be crowned two members of the assassins order stab him to death while he’s on his way to dinner with a friend, richard who had supported ghee becomes suspect number one especially after he gets his nephew henry of champagne married to isabella eight days after conrad’s death, which is why on his way home richard gets captured by conrad’s allies in austria forcing the english crown to bankrupt itself paying his ransom then isabella’s new husband henry accidentally falls out of a window that he might have survived if a servant hadn’t landed on him and she marries again, this time to surprise twist gee’s brother who then dies from eating too much mullet.
let’s take a step back the crusades are often discussed as a Christian Muslim religious conflict, but if there’s a lesson to take away from all this it’s that often motivations were more complicated, the crusaders leadership was often as worried about money and power just as much if not more as religious goals, and they didn’t just want to win back Jerusalem they each wanted their guy to rule it, also maybe monarchy was a bad idea.